Improspectives

Improv skills lead to success

Improv and Gamification: Motivation

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In my previous post, I mentioned four basic elements of gamification put forward by Wharton School faculty members Kevin Werbach and Dan Hunter. Those elements are:

  • Motivation
  • Meaningful choices
  • Structure
  • Potential conflicts

Motivation is tricky. I’ve stated my belief that all motivation is internal, but I  admit it’s a reductionist and curmudgeonly view. Many individuals, particularly extroverts, gain energy by interacting with others. Yes, you can argue they use these interactions to stoke their personal fire, but the truth is that the external forces affect their performance.

I’ll still use my “all motivation is internal” line at parties, though. It’s fun to argue and often leads to interesting discussions.

Gamification uses game elements such as points, badges, and leader boards to set goals, measure performance, and reward individual and team success. One example, which is near to my heart because I’ve written books for Microsoft Press since 2001, is how Microsoft used gamification to get their employees to identify errors in Windows 7 dialog boxes. Windows 7 is available in 35 languages, meaning that the dialog boxes and other text was translated into tongues as diverse as Chinese, Swedish, and Polish. Microsoft tracked which teams (usually members of the same business group) discovered the most errors and posted their names on a leader board displayed in the tool. Some team leaders decided to focus their efforts on the contest, which led to impressive performance.

Improvisers receive feedback from their audience immediately, usually in the form of laughter, but also as appreciation for what’s been done. Some performers can be thrown off by a quiet crowd, especially if they feel they’re having a good night but the audience just isn’t laughing. If you’re not getting the audible feedback you’re used to, check for eye contact. If your spectators meet your gaze and smile, you’re doing fine. They just prefer to express themselves quietly.

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